Aging is a slow natural process that happens as get we older. Skin wrinkles, fragile bones and short memory are just a few of the obvious signs of aging; however, if you do not take care of yourself, even at a younger age, you may accelerate the signs of aging in your body.
Taking care of your mental and physical health is the best way to achieve longevity. There are simple and research-based steps that health experts suggest to guide you in prolonging your life expectancy and health span; this is for you to enjoy a quality life without chronic diseases as you age.
In 2022, the life expectancy of people around the world was exactly 72.98 years old. With this low data for life expectancy, health experts derive the following tips from helping extend your life with a better health condition.
1. Add plant-based foods to your diet
Incorporating plant-based foods into your diet is one step to wellness. It is a well-known fact that plants can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, especially deadly ones, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and different types of cancer.
Fruit and vegetable intake and longevity have a dose-response relationship. Experts recommend eating around four to five servings of fruits and vegetables every day because doing this can add extra three to four years of life. Adding fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes to your daily diet can provide anti-inflammatory nutrients, antioxidants and fibre that help you keep cells in the body functioning optimally.
Plant-based foods are generally low or free of cholesterol and saturated fats, making them ideal for heart and gut health. Eating high-fibre carbohydrates like beans and whole grains provide beneficial effects on your gut bacteria and can further lead to higher FGF21 levels. A hormone that is strongly associated with longevity is called FGF21; hence, eating high-fibre carbs may help increase your lifespan.
Moreover, eating a plant-based diet can scientifically make you feel good, too. Aside from their antioxidants and phytochemical properties that are good for your body, plant foods are found to help restore balance to neurotransmitters, making them helpful for people with depression .
2. Have a positive outlook
Changing your negative perspective in life can ultimately help you be happy and have a long life. One research study from Harvard University discovered an association between higher levels of optimism and living longer, even beyond 90 years old, particularly in women across racial and ethnic groups . The 2022 study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society tracked over 160,000 women aged 50 to 79 for 26 years.
At the start of the research study, women participants were asked to complete a self-report to measure their optimism. Women participants with the highest scores were categorised as optimists, while the ones with the lowest scores were categorised as pessimists.
In 2019, the researchers followed up with women participants who were still living. They found that women who were recorded to have the highest levels of optimism lived longer, and the pessimists lived into their 90s. Also, there are several factors that were taken into account by the researchers, such as educational level, economic status and ethnicity.
You may ask, how about men? The effects of optimism on men’s longevity were not focused on by the 2022 study. However, other studies looked at both men and women, specifically the one published in 2019 by the Journal of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research revealed that people who were highly optimistic had a longer lifespan of about 11 to 15 percent compared with less optimistic people.
3. Have regular medical check-ups
Frequent medical consultations can detect life-shortening illnesses in the early stages. It enables you to learn how to change your lifestyle to reverse the conditions or prevent further complications through medicines. Regular medical check-ups also help physicians evaluate your mental health since physical and mental health are quite interconnected.
For women, they should consider taking the Pap test – a method of cervical screening – in their early 20s if they are sexually active. Its frequency should depend on their individual risk and what their respective doctor recommends.
Also, they must learn to conduct self-examination for their breasts and begin getting mammograms at age 40 to build a baseline. The number of times they should do mammograms depends on their individual risk of developing breast cancer.
For men, they should consult a physician to know if they believe they are at risk of developing prostate cancer. They can be screened through a prostate exam and cancer blood tests with scans.
Generally speaking, there are chronic diseases that may affect both men and women as they age. Some of these are colon cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some eye conditions.
Colon cancer, one of the fastest-growing cancers, can be treated when detected in its early stages. With regular screening, colon cancer can be managed before it is too late. Your risk of developing ischemic heart disease increases when you age. Taking several assessments may help identify this heart condition, which includes body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.
Alzheimer’s disease has been victimising more than 55 million people all around the world, and there are about 10 million new cases annually . Like colon cancer, this can be prevented with regular medical check-ups and having a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes. Your eye condition may be affected when you age or do not have proper oral hygiene. Taking eye exams is recommended when you reach 40 years old.
4. Physical activity is the key
Having regular physical activity of about 150 minutes of moderate level or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly can improve your overall wellness. It can keep weight stable, improve mood and energy levels and reduce your risk of developing major medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, doing more than the recommended time of physical activity mentioned above can help you live longer as well. In a study published in 2022, the researchers looked at more than 100,000 participants within a 30-year period. They discovered that participants who did two to four times the suggested amount of physical activity enjoyed a huge reduced risk of early mortality. The moderate physical activity in the study mentioned refers to walking, low-intensity exercise and strength training, while vigorous activity was defined as cycling, running and swimming .
5. Enjoy sufficient quality sleep
Having a quality sleep every night can boost your overall wellness. A night of good sleep can enhance your brain performance, mood and health, strengthen your heart and immune system, maximise your athletic performance and make it easier for you to lose excess weight.
Continuous sleep deprivation increases your risk of developing several fatal health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, obesity, dementia, inflammation, depression and hypertension – all these can potentially shorten your life.
6. Go outside
Your longevity can be prolonged even more when you simply go outside. Exposing your skin to sunlight triggers the cells in your skin to produce an essential nutrient which is vitamin D. It can essentially improve bone health and play an important role in major health conditions, especially depression, heart disease and diabetes. Keeping your vitamin D levels in good condition is considered the easiest and cheapest way to enhance your health and increase your life expectancy.
Take note, though, that sitting by a window does not count as the glass filters too much of the sunlight. It was also found that around 50 percent of adults have low levels of vitamin D. This can be corrected by taking vitamin D supplements and eating foods rich in vitamin D to increase the amount of this vitamin in your body.
Among people who significantly need vitamin D are the elderly. They need vitamin D to improve their sleep as sunlight can regulate another hormone in the body called melatonin that controls the sleep cycle.
7. Manage stress effectively
Stress can be difficult to manage when it has become chronic. Experiencing chronic stress may not only impact your daily thoughts, personal relationships with others, or feelings towards yourself and the things around you, but it also negatively affects your physical health. It can also contribute to many fatal health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, and can ultimately weaken your immune system, resulting in sickness more frequently than your normal state.
Furthermore, chronic stress can cause you to experience a set of uncomfortable symptoms, such as feeling fatigued all the time, irritable even at little things, chest pain, upset stomach, muscle tension, headaches, low sex drive and insomnia. Not just that, you may also become anxious, feel overwhelmed and, worse, depressed.
In short, chronic stress is no joke; experiencing it may be hard for you to function optimally. To manage stress, you can do regular physical activity, practise relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga or tai chi, and maintain a good sense of humour. Meeting up with your family and friends can also help when you are stressed.